ESA medical assessments, the reality. My experience this week. 

Apologises for the extra blog, I meant to post it yesterday but I have been far too busy to do so. Such is life it seems these days. 
A lady that comes to speak to me at our demo every week had an appointment to attend her ESA assessment. I asked her if she had a family member or a friend that could take her but she said that she didn’t, and the reason why I asked this is because it’s always best if a person that knows them well attends the medical with them. This is because they know the person far better than any person from an outside organisation can ever do. However, we do offer very good advice on how to handle the so called medical etc. This is essential. 

Because this wasn’t possible, I volunteered myself to accompany her. I didn’t have the money to do so, but at the time her needs came first. Shes very vulnerable and I certainly didnt want her to go into the lions den so to speak alone. She is also a very quiet, shy person and has refused to access other local organisations. So I accompanied her, much to her relief. 

I met her to start our journey which wasn’t a short one. She was understandably nervous and anxious so I did my best to reassure her that I would look after her to the best of my abilities, which I did. 

I’m sure that my readers are aware of how horrible these so called medicals are. It’s not just having the medical, its also the journey there and the building itself. The DWP like to choose places that can look intimidating and sparsely furnished. 


Albert Bridge House, the assessment centre that we had the misfortune to have to visit. The entrance itself is round the corner, but they don’t make it easy to find. But I suspect that’s the intention isn’t it. 

Upon attending a medical like this, the assessment process often starts before you enter the building. As in the case of the Manchester assessment centre, there are cameras outside watching you arrive and leave. They say that they don’t but whilst waiting with the lady in the waiting area, I clearly heard the receptionist say to a man “Well, we saw you arrive in a taxi”. Unless they had seen this on a screen inside, this wouldn’t have been possible. 

So beware of this, make a note and remember. 

Upon entering we were met by two G4S security guards, this adds to the feeling of oppression and intimidation and does nothing to give a person confidence. The reception desk is behind clear plastic, and the staff quite rude. 
A person isn’t greeted, or asked if they are ok. Considering that they are dealing with sick and disabled people, they should show a glimmer of concern. Instead a clipboard is thrusted into your hands through a gap in the plastic, and they say with no understanding “Fill this in”. It states that they want to see a persons proof of identity, although nothing is said about this on the letter that the person receives. I pointed this out to them and they said fill it in anyway. I did this for the lady, but they offered no help, or even asked if she was able to do so. 

The building itself is old, shabby and harks back to a time, probably the 1960’s and 1970’s. There’s lines of chairs in poor condition, one water fountain (which is a new edition, it wasn’t there the last time that I visited) and basic toilets. Everything is dark wood and shabby carpets long past their best. The only nice thing about the room is that it has big windows, looking out across the road where upper class housing is being built. This is tragic, rubbing their noses in it I thought. 
We found a spot in a corner at the back of the room, I was trying to make the whole awful experience less daunting for her. She struggles in crowded spaces and felt more at ease there. 

As soon as we sat down, a young man stormed out of his assessment. He was shouting and was angry, which was very understandable. He told the room full of people that he has a mental health illness, that he struggles. He went into his assessment and was asked to move his arms and legs. He was asked NOTHING about his mental health. He knew that they were going to fail him and as he stated, and as we know, he wasn’t given a medical relevant to his condition. They saw him and decided that they would fail him. He went on to tell everyone sat in the room to challenge everything, to appeal and to do what I do. Expose every wrongdoing that they are guilty of. He was then walked out of the building by the security guards. 

I don’t want to scare anyone, but this is how easy it is for a person to loose everything. A so called medical ‘nurse’ deciding that they are going to wrongly assess a person. This is why it is very important to take the assesors name, qualification and the medical body on which they operate under. These are all vital details needed to make a complaint and appeal. Also, if you are able, write a transcript of the medical when you arrive back home. 

Whilst waiting, I heard a woman complaining that she had waited for over a hour, had travelled 45 minutes to get there and she couldn’t stay any longer because she couldn’t cope anymore. She made another appointment and left. 
In front of us a woman was half sat, half lying down on a couple of chairs. She was curled up in a ball and was obviously unable to cope with being there. 
An 81 year old woman was wheeled into the room by her carer. I had no idea of her circumstances but theres no way on this earth that an 81 year old woman should have to attend a medical. No one should have to attend a medical like this. 
Towards the right to us, there was a lady clutching hold of her carer, rocking back and forth talking to herself. Her carer was furious that she had to attend and told me that it will take her weeks, if not a month to get over this experience. 
Further down, there was a woman sat with her partner. She looked very nervous and wasn’t talking to anyone. When her name was called, she refused the offer of help from her partner to go in the assessment with her. I really hope that they didn’t fail her but the odds were stacked against her. 
Sat at the front, near the reception a woman was sat silently looking at the ground, bewildered, unsure of why she was there and what was going to happen. She was also on her own. 
A lady was sat with her carer to the right of us, asleep. She had to be woke up to attend her assessment. 
All of these people were clearly too ill and disabled to attend this so called medical. They clearly shouldn’t have to attend, no one should. Their consultants or doctors assessment and diagnoses of their conditions should enough, it always used to be. This process is designed purposely to humiliate and degrade a person, to make them feel unworthy and to question their illness or disability. I’m sure that most people leaving these assessments leave under a dark cloud of depression, stress and worry. 
As for the lady that I accompanied, we waited two hours, she had a panic attack and I had to rearrange the appointment. 
This folks is the reality of this cruel system, and this is exactly why I will continue to fight it. No one deserves to be treated like this. The whole DWP system in the form that it exists in now kills people. How many more deaths is it going to take before people take notice. This needs to become a priority, and soon. 
Footnote; This is not the first time that I have attended a medical with someone, and it won’t be the last time either. I just wanted to share this experience. It is not my intention to scare anyone, but reality is reality and it needs sharing. 

I do this at my own expense, and this week I have had to make the decision of heat or eat myself. I had to choose eat, the emergency gas will have to last. If I don’t blog tomorrow, it means that my internet has been disconnected due to non payment, and I have no credit on my telephone either. I will access free wifi at Ikea on Friday if this is the case. Once again I’m just stating the reality of the situation, and the situation is the same for thousands of people. 

Be the kindness that you want to see in this world. 

I featured on the Adrian Chiles show on Radio 5 Live on monday. Here is the link. This was recorded outside Ashton Jobcentre last Tuesday. 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b094sptv

Please share, and talk about my blog. Also please donate if possible. Every penny helps. Thank you, and thank you to everyone that supports my blog already.

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Today’s demo. Tuesdays extra demo.

I arrived for our weekly demo a few minutes late, I unexpectedly met a friend of mine who wanted to join us this morning. I was so happy to see her because she has been a tremendous support to myself regarding my personal life.

I had a tough few years and both her and her brother who has sadly passed away were a tremendous support to both myself and my daughter. It cheered me up no end seeing her.
As we approached the Jobcentre out of nowhere Gordon had appeared and there was a small crowd of people waiting for help, advice and food parcels.  My first job was to talk to them all individually and assess what their situation is and what help that they can access locally.

Some don’t want to approach local organisations for whatever reason but I do talk to them every week and one day I will succeed in getting them there. This can be hard work and I’ve built up a rapour with them so I’m keeping everything crossed.

 

Today seemed very hard, the requests for help and also just conversation was very high.

We now have people that used to attend Stalybridge Jobcentre requiring advice and solidarity. Most of them commented once again that they couldn’t believe the difference between Ashton Jobcentre and Stalybridge, there were also numerous complaints about the security guards. It is very daunting walking in that building.

I spoke to a young man whom I had helped a while ago. When I first met him he was down on his luck and having a very hard time. This was also compounded with the fact that he had addiction issues. He wasn’t getting the support that he needed and was like a fish out of water. Being homeless as well made his life unbearable, but we stood with him, didn’t judge him and ensured that he received the help that he needed and also gave him the strength and support to do so.

This is why we do these demos, and it also gives us hope..

He is an amazing young man. He gave me full permission to record the video below. I’m so proud of him.


Today was extremely busy and I don’t think that we had handed so many leaflets out for a long time. It’s a good job that we had arranged for a re print with some edits made to the back page to make them clearer to read. I think that we might use these up in record time at this rate.


I’m taking a lady to her ESA medical on Wednesday next week so she came to meet me to have a chat. She’s quite understandably very nervous. I will ensure that she gets the support that she needs on that day.

It’s taken me a long time to build up her trust also. I’m really hoping that she passes her medical but we know how hard that is don’t we.

 
I spoke to two very young girls that were having to use the Jobcentre, one of them had an appointment the other wanted to go in with her friend for support but was sent out of the Jobcentre by the security guards. She was informed of her right to do so and was given a copy of this in writing so that she could show them next time.
I spoke to an older lady who was leaving the Jobcentre out of breath and obviously in poor health. I informed her that given her circumstances she could apply to claim ESA and she should do so with the upmost urgency. She has to now travel miles to get to Ashton Jobcentre and I am very worried about her ability to do this, and also the cost. She is struggling so I handed her a food parcel and explained that we are there every week if she wants to talk to us. I also handed her a leaflet with details of other local organisations that might be able to help her.

 
Every person that we spoke to today that had previously been using Stalybridge Jobcentre were struggling in some way. I did alert people that this would cause immense suffering but it fell on deaf ears.

We also didn’t see any DWP staff members protesting about this. Not one. Maybe they were deployed elsewhere so weren’t that concerned with loosing their jobs there. This will be remembered if the same staff ever approach us to support one of their picket lines. I doubt that this will ever happen though.

 
I spoke to a young lady who was with her mother and her baby. They looked stressed and muttered something about how their benefits always being changed. They didn’t go into any details though they were in a rush to attend their appointment. We did however inform her of  her right to have her mother with her for support.

 
I also had to do a very short notice demo for Radio 5 Live on Tuesday. So I went down armed with leaflets to do so.

It’s always a different atmosphere when I do impromptu demos. The Jobcentre immediately turned off their automatic door opening system as soon as they saw me. I’m no threat to them at all, I really am not. I’m a middle aged lady with a bad back and their behaviour sometimes strikes me as ridiculous.

 
That morning I spoke to a woman who was struggling with being on Universal Credit whilst her husband works on a zero hour contract. The Jobcentre are demanding that she also finds work, but with two children and never knowing what hours he is working its near impossible to find childcare. She also has no family in England to help her.

 
I spoke to a man who was in obvious distress and quite rightly so. His Jobcentre advisor was giving him the runaround, and trying every trick in the book to sanction him. He had done his job search, showed her but his advisor still told him that he was going to be sanctioned. This man was very vulnerable and his advisor knew this, which makes it even worse. He became angry which is also very understandable, so I did my best to calm him down and thankfully it worked.

 
I also spoke to a man who had previously had a struggle with his advisor who had tried to make him claim Universal credit instead of the JSA that he is entitled to claim under his circumstances. Not only would he have been much worse off financially, it wouldn’t have done his mental health much good either. Luckily he had stood his ground and won.

 

 

I spoke to lots of people that morning, and all were thankful for the advice and leaflets given to them.

I was freezing cold and extremely tired that evening but it was worth it because more people recieved the help that they needed.
This is just a few of the people that have been helped this week, can you imagine how many people are desperate for help up and down the country every day? This is an issue that certainly isnt being spoken about enough and it does feel like no one cares about them. Are they not worthy enough to make their issues become a priority?

I stand in solidarity with DPAC and agree that one and a half questions at PMQs this week in parliament is not enough, not by a long shot. I fully support Jeremy Corbyn, don’t misunderstand me, but people are dying every day as a result of these punitive measures being directed towards the disabled and the poor. Their voices need to be heard.

How many deaths will it take?

I’m sorry for the short blog, I’m tired and it feels like I never stop.

 

I’ve also started a regular vlog on YouTube to coincide with my blog. This week will be my first vlog and here is the link if you would like to watch it.
https://www.youtube.com/user/clairvoyantcharlotte

Please share my blog as widely as possible. I really do appreciate my readers that already do this.

 

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Four year demo anniversary, man sanctioned for 96 days, food parcels handed out. 

Today was the day of our yearly anniversary and we had decided on a theme… Prisoners of the DWP. Claimants are treated by the DWP like criminals and every aspect of their life is effectively controlled by them. If you don’t believe me just ask someone who is a victim of this regime. It’s cruel and horrible and has the ability to destroy a persons life at the push of a button. Hence our demo theme.
I arrived slightly early awaiting the delivery of the pasting table that we were using today, the big flask donated by Ray Woolford when he visited, and also tea, coffee etc.

I arrived early, I was expecting Roy early, but I wasn’t expecting anyone else to be but they proved me wrong, everyone was either early or on time which was amazing. Thank you folks it is appreciated it really is, you guys are my rock.

DSC03561

As I was setting up for our demo I was busy handing out food parcels, asking folk how they were and signposted to local organisations that are able to sit down and talk to them. We need to do this, but we offer lots of help, support compassion and solidarity. We also receive no funding from any large organisations and rely on donations.
A man stopped me and he was very angry. He told me that he was fed up of being sanctioned. He was a young man who had previously had to use Stalybridge Jobcentre to sign on but it’s been shut down so has to now use Ashton. He also wasn’t very complimentary about the staff either.

A homeless chap raced over to me and told me that his money had been stopped because he had applied for his ESA before the six month time limit so he was refused. He told me that he didn’t want to speak to any official organisation at the moment but I will keep trying. I also gave him details of the local organisations that he can access to get help.
Then we were joined by Paula Peters and Keith Walker from from the inspiring group DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts), we always offer solidarity and they do to us. We have links to a lot of the national campaigning groups throughout the country.


I was so happy to see them, and they had travelled from London to see us and some other groups. The last time that I had met Paula was at a Unite/PCS conference two years ago. She, and DPAC are amongst my heroes, they literally put their life’s on the line to protest about the way that disabled people are being treated in the UK.

We were then stopped by a man who told us that he had been sanctioned for 96 days. We wern’t clear about the reasons for the lengthy sanction but I can say this. Sanctions are mostly being given as a first option of ‘punishment’ by the DWP, it’s their first line of attack and they shouldn’t be. No one deserves to have their lifeline taken away from them by anyone and these cruel methods employed by the DWP certainly do not encourage people into work. They do the opposite, sanctions do result in deaths and that is a fact highlighted by UN reports. It’s going to become a whole lot worse, infact horrific when universal credit is rolled out universally. The impact that this will have on disabled people will certainly result in many, many deaths. The suffering will be on such a scale that it will be unpresedented. But we will continue to help people the best that we can, and I will also continue to lobby MPS, attend meetings, speak at meetings, help with tv companies that are only making positive programmes about the reality of living within this system, and of course I will contuinue to write my blog. I have also started to write my book at last.


I brought the megaphone to the demo today because it was our fourth anniversary, but we wern’t celebrating, far from it. A few of us made some speeches, mine was awful I’m afraid, but Paula’s, John’s and Christine’s speeches were amazing. Christine poem brought tears to my eyes.

There is so much more that I could write about, but I don’t want to bore you. It was a fantastic day for solidarity and support, we gave out lots and lots of help, handed out food parcels, provided hot drinks and biscuits and leaflets. We listened whilst people told us about their problems and then helped them. We showed them a kindness that hadn’t been shown to them by the Jobcentre staff. I got hugs from some people as a thank you for helping them because believe me the campaign doesn’t start and end on a Thursday. It’s more or less a full time job.

We do make a massive difference to people’s life’s and that is what we are there for, that and to campaign.

I would also like to say thank you to our supporters for all the support that you have given me and for sharing this blog. I also want to thank all of the team for just being amazing I love you all. And a special thank you for John and Christine who have been there from the start. They’ve put up with me for years and that in itself deserves a medal.
I’m tired so I’m going to end it there, and if any of the gang from Wigan Diggers read this I cannot attend because funds don’t allow but I will be watching all of the videos and supporting you from home.

Please share this blog widely, the government really don’t like people sharing information such as this, it damages their credibility, that’s if they have any left anymore.

Also please donate if you can every penny helps and is put to good use. Thank you.

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Important updates share widely. 

Please read and share widely. If you arent angry upon reading this then I don’t know how bad it has to become before you become angry. 

As we know the DWP and the government like to stitch everything up so it goes in their favour. Many thanks to the people over at Benefits And Work for all their hard work in challenging these decisions and wrongful treatment. 

To put it simply, we mean nothing to the DWP. Remember that. 
From benefits and Work a very reliable source of information. 
Entirely unlawfully, the DWP has been blocking people from appealing if they miss the one month deadline for asking for a mandatory reconsideration. In truth, the deadline can be extended by a further year where the claimant has good cause for being late. But the DWP had decided that it was up to them to be the judge of whether the claimant had a good reason for missing the deadline and that tribunals shouldn’t be allowed any say in whether they could hear the case.
Happily, a panel of three upper tribunal judges have now said that the DWP must stop preventing claimants from exercising their lawful right to appeal. The case involved ESA, but will apply to all other benefits too.
MILLIONS SPENT ON ESA APPEALS.

The Independent, meanwhile, has managed to get the DWP to hand over details of how much they have spent on trying to stop people getting ESA. And, in particular, on fighting appeals against sanctions of sick and disabled claimants ESA.
The cost to the taxpayer has been a staggering £39 million. And that’s just the DWP’s costs. It doesn’t include to cost of the tribunals themselves.
The fact that the DWP has been losing over two thirds of these cases doesn’t discourage them in the slightest.
Far from it. According to the Independent, spending on ESA appeals has increased by 77% in 2017.
WCA REPORT BLOCKED

We also have news of the DWP refusing to accept the ruling of the Information Commissioner that they must publish a report that shows how well Maximus, and Atos before them, carry out work capability assessments.
The reason the DWP have given for the refusal?
Publication of the report could‘give a perception of under-performance’ which could ‘damage the reputation and standing of the companies involved’.
In other words, they don’t want anyone to know how bad things are, so they are trying to use commercial confidentiality as a reason for withholding the truth.
The matter will now be decided by an information tribunal.
PIP GUIDANCE WITHHELD

Then there’s the fight that Benefits and Work is having with the DWP, which is currently on its way to the Information Commissioner.
We’ve asked to see guidance and training materials used by Atos in relation to PIP assessments.
One of the things we want to discover is whether Atos and Capita are following the same procedures or whether the outcome of your assessment depends in part on what area of the country you are living in.
The DWP are fighting to withhold the documents, however.
Their reason?
You’ve probably guessed it: the information is, in some unexplained way, commercially confidential.
The matter is now going to the Information Commissioner and then, quite possibly, to an information tribunal.

Apple Pie. Cooking on the cheap again. 

Sorry post yet another recipe, but I did think that this could be useful to some of my readers out there. 

I don’t know about you, but cooking on a budget is always on my mind, most of us can’t afford to do anything else. If I can cook it myself for a lot cheaper than it would be to buy I will do. Also home made food is also of a much better quality and nutritional value which is equally as important. 

I must state that I’m not what you could call a cook. If I manage to cook something and it tastes nice then it’s a result in my eyes and the following dish was ate very enthusiastically by my friends at a gathering yesterday. 
I’m very lucky to have a neighbour that likes to give me any fruit that she doesn’t want or has been given too much of. This time it was apples that had been picked of her friends tree in her back garden and my daughter brought a carrier bag full of them home to me. 

The first thing that I thought of cooking was a nice apple pie. I hadn’t made one for years and I had recently bought some pre rolled pastry for a quid and already had purchased some Apple Pie seasoning from Aldi the other week. Aldi are really good at selling seasonal spices like this and they are really cheap. 

Here goes. 

Ingredients needed; apples raisins or sultanas, sugar, spice mix or cinnnamon and nutmeg although not essential they do enhance the taste of the apples and pastry. Milk or egg to glaze. 

Here are the apples. They are a bit battered looking but don’t be put off. They were good apples and once peeled you couldnt tell the difference between one of these and a perfect shop bought one. 


Peel the apples. Use your own judgement about how many you will need based upon the size of the pie dish you are using. I don’t have a pie dish so I improvised. 


When peeled, cut into smaller pieces and place in a bowl of water to prevent the apples from becoming brown. 


Cut and peel as many as are required and put them in a pan of water along with the raisins or sultanas. Don’t worry if you don’t have these, just apples will be ok. 


Place on a moderate heat and cook for around ten minutes just to allow them to soften a little and to release a little flavour, This is a trick that my friend Debbie informed me of and it really makes a difference to the flavour and softness of the apples. 


Drain and leave to cool whilst you attend to the pastry. 

This is the ready rolled pastry that I already had in the fridge. Making your own pastry is far more cheaper and is fun to make when you have children. But I had to use this because it was close to the use by date so I did. 


Because this pastry is ready rolled, you don’t have to roll it out. This saves a lot of time. 

Then get your dish of choice. This is the one that I used. 


Grease and flour the dish and now it’s ready for the pastry. 

Place the dish top down upon your pastry and cut round it, leaving some extra pasty to ensure that its deep enough. 

Put your drained apples into the dish on top of the pastry inside it. Sprinkle the sugar and seasoning to taste. I don’t like an apple pie to be too sweet but not sour either. Use your own judgement on this. 


If you can get hold of this seasoning its amazing. 


I chose to make a lattice top. Mainly because I had to improvise due to not having enough pastry to put a full top on. Excuse the not straight lines. I call it rustic. I don’t believe in perfection all of the time anyway. 


Place in a criss cross pattern on the top, sticking down with either an egg wash or milk. I used milk because thats what I had more of. Sprinkle with sugar also it really does look and taste better if you do this. 

Place in the oven at gas mark 4, 180c, 350f. 

I’m not sure about exact timing, but keep checking until it looks to your taste, the top is nice and browned and the pastry is golden. 


Here’s the finished result. 

Not perfect but it cost a quid to make, the apples were free and I already had the other ingrediants. 

It was eaten  by friends in minutes and the feedback was good. 

Bon appetit!

Make the most of our free seasonal vegetables if available to you. 

 
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Sanctioned for not being able to sign on on bank holiday Monday. Tears, frustration and rain.

Today’s demo started rather hurriedly and to be honest I didn’t know if I was coming or going. This feeling was amplified because it was cold, rainy and my daughter was a bit fed up. understandable of course. But she soon settled down into our usual routine and all was well.

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We are seeing a lot of new faces due to Stalybridge Jobcentre shutting. They don’t know us and what we are doing, and we don’t know them or their situations either. So we have to start from scratch, which at times isn’t easy.  But it’s a whole lot harder for them.

I started a conversation with a man who had been previously attending Stalybridge Jobcentre for his appointments. The first thing that he said to me was that he couldn’t believe how rude the front desk staff are at  Ashton Jobcentre, and how rude some of the advisors are also. He mentioned that some of the advisors at Stalybridge could be awful, but Ashton Jobcentre felt positively hostile. I had to agree with him. The frontline staff has a habit of making a person feel like they are guilty of committing some heinous crime, when in fact their only crime and it isn’t a crime is being poor.

You really have to experience this to understand what I’m talking about. I experienced the same treatment when I used to have to sign on there. It was awful, with G4S security guards taking personal details to check appointments. Of course, this is illegal but the DWP and their employees seem to be immune to any type of action being taken against them. One day I’m sure that their time will come.

He also explained to us that he had failed his ESA medical and was in the process of appealing, so until he can prove that he has launched an appeal he has had to submit a claim for JSA. He knows the score and what to do but it doesn’t make it easier does it. So he is now in no man’s land, waiting for everything to be processed and it is a horrible place to be.

Whilst I was standing outside the Jobcentre I spotted a man walk in, who was very obviously disabled and in discomfort. He didn’t want to speak on his way into the Jobcentre but chose to do so on the way out. He has an injury to his knee and it’s in a large knee support, and because he was claiming Universal Credit he was handing sick notes in to cover him for this period of time. I advised him that he could claim ESA if the injury is going to cause a disability that might take some time to recover from and he took that advice on board. The DWP hasn’t made his life easy though and they are continuing to mess him about with his payments. Unfortunately, he didn’t go into great detail but I advised him and gave him a leaflet. I also asked him if he wanted a food parcel. He said no, he would be ok but his father who was stood behind him said: “Yes we do, I’m having to feed you and I have very little money”.  Having been in this situation myself, I gladly gave him a food parcel and at least they will eat better this week.

This is another hidden issue that not a lot of people speak about. I’ve been in this position myself and it’s very hard looking after a relative who has had their lifeline taken off them by the DWP for whatever reason that may be.

I felt a lot of stress and hardship when I had to do this, so this could well be what many people feel like when they are in the same situation. Cooking for one extra person might not seem to be a lot, but it soon mounts up. Also, there are the extra bills that have to be paid such as gas, electric etc. Managing from day to day is very hard indeed and demands on food banks and similar organizations grow as a result.

If a person has no family then it’s a dire situation to be in, so please have sympathy with those forced into this awful situation which wasn’t of their choice.

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I spoke to a man who was rushing down the road to talk to me. He was so upset. His situation has spiraled out of control, and he hadn’t followed up our advice on what to do and where to go. Seeking help is often very hard. It takes courage and swallowing of pride. Asking for and accepting help is very hard indeed.

I told him of a local organization that he can go to straight away to get some immediate help and that he must go now. The nights are getting cold and with his health conditions, I didn’t want him sleeping on the streets. I gave him a food parcel and a colleague (Karl) gave him a lift up to this organization. It was vital that he went, so we made sure that he did. Thanks, Karl.

We then started talking to a lady who had also previously attended Stalybridge Jobcentre. She also informed us of how different Ashton Jobcentre is. She wasn’t happy. She had been diagnosed with Bi Polar years ago but is new to the signing on  process and she was understandably overwhelmed. It was then that she started crying, saying that she is 58 years old and cannot physically look for work eight hours a day. She doesn’t know how to use computers and the system has confused her.

We advised her to make a claim for ESA and advised her of how to do this and where to go to get help to do so. She also said that she had no friends, so I told her that I would be her friend as did other members of the group. The tears disappeared and she felt supported and loved. This is exactly why we are there every week and will continue to be.

I also spoke to a young man who had been given a signing on appointment for the previous bank holiday Monday. Yes folks, bank holiday Monday. Of course, he couldn’t sign on and he informed the Jobcentre of this. The DWP were totally unsympathetic of course and informed him that he was now sanctioned for not attending. You really couldn’t make this up, could you?

It’s not the first time that we have seen this though and it isn’t unusual. He is appealing and he will win and overrule this sanction, but in the meantime, he is without money. We gave him appropriate advice and signposted to all local groups. Let’s hope that he takes this up.

I and a colleague started talking to a man who was a former policeman. He had taken early retirement and was attending the Jobcentre just to keep up his national insurance contributions. He told us of his struggles and that he is really struggling to manage on the pension that he has been given. I advised him to go to the local Citizens Advice centre where they can do a full benefit check for him. He says that he has now been forced back to looking for work, and will hopefully get one within the police force. He didn’t have a nice word to say about the Jobcentre and I don’t blame him.

We started talking to a lovely young woman who had lost her job due to no fault of her own. She had been working at a children’s day nursery and had been exploited, both of the hours and work that she was expected to do, but also because of her good nature. I can’t elaborate more due to the fact that she might be taking further action about this through her union. She might not, but I don’t want to ruin her chances of doing so if she does.

This is another issue that is growing sadly. The exploitation of staff by management at some private day nurseries. They usually employ young staff members and overwork them. of course, some don’t, and kudos to those that don’t. But for a long time now I have been hearing these stories. The apprentice scheme at these day nurseries can also exploit them, I’ve heard some awful stories about this also. It’s about time that all apprenticeships are properly regulated because young people should not be exploited. Young people should be respected because they are, after all our future.

We also had a few people in cars shout over to us saying the old ‘Get a job’ as if they were the first people to say it. It’s not clever nor is it smart. And to drive away as fast as they can makes them cowards in my eyes.

If they actually stopped and spoke to us they would realize that most of us are working, but on very limited incomes or retired. Sadly I’m used to it now.

Today we handed seven food parcels out, many thanks to Pat and the gang at Glossop for that. Many thanks also to Tom for the sandwiches that he donated they made a big difference.  We gave out lots and I mean lots of support and signposted everyone that we spoke to. I also confirmed arrangements for myself to support a lady through her ESA medical in a few weeks time.

We gave out lots and I mean lots of support and signposted everyone that we spoke to. I also confirmed arrangements for myself to support a lady through her ESA medical in a few weeks time.

It honestly never ends. The suffering never ends and it is getting much worse than it ever has been. Even if we by some miracle could change governments tomorrow it will take years and I mean years to rectify the damage caused by this awful government. I really don’t have a clue how people will survive.

Next week is our four-year anniversary demo and the theme for this one is ‘Prisoners of the state.’ Please come and join us 10-12 Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre 101 Old Street Ashton Under Lyne.  We also will hopefully have some special guests coming along. Tea and coffee will be available for all.

Please share my blog, talk about it, and there is a donate button below if anyone would like to donate.

Thank you.

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Back to school worries, school uniforms how can we afford to buy them? 

It’s that time of year again, just over a week before the children go back to school and it seems that we have to have endless pots of money to provide our children with the expensive uniforms that many schools, especially secondary schools expect them to wear. Compounded with that, there is also the added pressure of all the extras that are also demanded. 

Admitting to others that the cost of buying school uniform is also very stigmatising and it prevents parents from admitting that they are struggling to cope. 


As regular reader will already know, I live on a very low income and every year I’m confronted with this problem. Luckily my daughter is still at primary school, but believe me I used to have sleepless nights about this. I don’t anymore but I expect I might have next year when she will start secondary school. 

In the past with my older children I used to be of the belief that because it was September and the start of a new school year, that they needed a full, completely new school uniform and accesories. I would go over the top in the uniform shop and supermarkets, buying everything new. That’s a habit that I had to stop out of necessity. I couldn’t afford it, so what was I going to do? 

I then decided to assess what actually needed replacing. Clothes that didn’t fit anymore were put to one side, as were any ripped clothes etc. This still left me with a good, solid base of school uniform that could be easily worn once again when the school year started again.  I would use white material brighteners (not bleach it leaves a yellow tone) on any dull shirts and then iron them well. They looked great. No one would know that they wern’t new. 


So that left me with the uniform that I needed to replace. I like to buy two cheap shirts from a supermarket etc. Avoid uniform shops like the plague if you can. Often the quality of the uniform isn’t that good and the prices are expensive. My daughter likes to wear a new shirt on the first day, after that as long as it’s clean she isn’t that bothered as long as it fits. 

I don’t know how I’ve managed this, but she had managed to fit into the same school skirt for two years. This is the first year that I’ve had to replace it and I found a plain skirt that actually fitted with room at a charity shop for a couple of pounds. I took it home, washed it, ironed it and it looks new. She also has some plain trousers that she wears when it gets cold and they still fit her and are in very good condition so they aren’t being replaced either. 

The same applies to sports kit. I always buy an oversized t shirt, and stretchy legging material shorts. I often find these in places like Aldi and Asda. School pumps as well. If the previous terms uniform still fits then don’t buy new! There is no need. 

I was then left with the task of sourcing new school socks, although only a few pairs because she still has her old socks that are in good condition. Instead of going to the local brand clothes shops, and a trip to Manchester was too expensive I decided to source her some from my local indoor market. I did this very easily, and found three pairs of knee length socks that actually reach the knees for a few pounds. Result. I saved on bus fares and complaints from the daughter that they aren’t long enough. Headaches spared as well then. 

Buying underware, well she wears what she already has. There’s no need for new underware for school. That is unless it’s too small. 

Always put names on your child’s school uniform. There is no need to buy expensive name tags etc either. Buy a set of Sharpies form the Poundshop, take the black or blue one and write their name inside their uniform. This also works better because labels can be taken off, Sharpie marks can’t so it might make the retrieval of lost school uniform easier. 

School shoes. If your child’s school shoes are ruined beyond repair or don’t fit anymore then there is no reason why they can’t wear them again. Buy some cheap shoe polish, polish them and they will look like new. If their shoes still fit but are needing repair then go to a local cobblers and have them repaired. They will make them look like new again and your child will be happy because they fit and are comfy. I always repair shoes and it has saved me a fortune throughout the years, and is often much cheaper than buying new shoes. If new shoes are needed then look on Ebay, Amazon etc. You can find some really good bargains there. If you can’t do this then try a supermarket. Go for the better constructed ones with good soles because they will last longer. 


Sandwich bags and boxes don’t need to be bought again unless their old ones are unusable. Its an unecessary expense. 

School bags. Yes I know that it looks nice to have a new school bag, but when money is low have a think. Do they really need a new school bag? I only buy new ones when its necessary because I can’t afford to otherwise. Some bags can be washed in a washing machine or wiped down. This can really improve their appearance also. 
School coat. If their coat still fits them and is in good repair then they can wear it again. It’s likely that a thick winter coat isn’t needed as soon as the new term starts anyway, so if a new coat is needed you could well find a good one in a charity shop or reduced in a shop. Expensive coats really aren’t needed, a warm cheaper coat is equally as good and if it gets damaged its easier to repair. Never buy expensive unless its a bargain in a charity shop. 

I know that the pressure for children to wear expensive uniform at secondary school is unreal. Schools are demanding too much from parents, who are already struggling to afford to feed their children. 

This is wrong and I totally disagree with it. Wearing posh logos on everything does not make a child study harder, behave better or pass exams. All I can suggest for this is to try and put a couple of quid away every week to buy this uniform. Also buy secondhand. 

Ask at the school if there are any school uniform exchanges etc. If there isn’t any suggest it to the school. Also lobby your local MP and highlight the cost of school uniforms. Talk to other parents about it also, maybe putting pressure on the school will help them to change their policies. There is nothing wrong with a plain uniform that is cheap and easy to buy.

I always replace bits of school uniform as my daughter grows. I now never buy a full set every September, and I don’t loose any sleep over it. Children can and do look smart wearing a previous terms uniform and we can hardly afford to do anything else can we. 

Enquire if there are any clothing banks local to yourself. If there aren’t then maybe start one. Check the local Facebook pages also I’ve had lot’s of bargains from these pages. 

Apologies to anyone that might already be aware of these tips, I’m not wanting to preach to the converted so to speak. If anyone has any more suggestions please write them in the comments section. Thanks . 

 
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